‘Genetica’ new solo show Silas in our gallery
From Saturday 3 October until Sunday 18 October, Jaski Gallery organized a new solo show with works from Silas, called ‘Genetica’.
“In December 2018 I tried something new”, Silas tells. “At a market, I found a book with old etchings of vistas of various cities in the Netherlands from the 18th century. It was printed on thick paper, perfect as a surface to paint on. I cut up the pages, mixed up the cutouts and built up a collage of a new, old city in this crazy perspective. I used this collage as a first layer and over it I painted a translucent portrait of a boy, which I eventually named ‘Godard’. Jaski Gallery instantly fell in love with this painting and exhibited it at an art fair where it was sold immediately. That’s when they came up with the idea to do a solo exhibition with this kind of paintings. I liked the idea, but I knew this was gonna be a huge challenge for me because you cannot vary a lot with this technique.
Before I start painting, I make a sketch in Photoshop and try to create a new fictive character. For this I use photos of models with specific genetic looks from all over the world. By cutting out the facial parts from all these models and then blending them together into a new model, I kind of create my own futuristic human. Is this what humans could look like in 500 years? No skin type of colors, but in all colors like a crazy melting pot of cultures. These creations are not just a face. They have names and characters and I try to let them tell their story by facial expression, whether by looking away or straight at you in combination with perhaps a grumpy look or a melancholy smile.
After I finished the first painting for my new show, I came to realize that it would take me too much time and too many books, which were not cheap, to create a full show with this type of paintings. Building up a collage like this is a very slow and intense process. Especially when it concerns a bigger canvas.
And so I came up with the idea to add other images in my collages too. Graphic images from old books about construction materials, astrology, the diversity of trees and its inhabitants… Anything that could relate to human history. By making collages from these images in the shape of a face in combination with a partly translucent painted character, I tried to create portraits of new humans that reflect past and future.
But still I wanted to vary a bit more. I’ve always been inspired by Japanese woodblock prints. One day I came across an online auction where one could place a bid on these beautiful Japanese prints. After a few more clicks I saw these woodblock printed picture books that were over a hundred and fifty years old.
Four tiny books with a cover in color and the inside pages in black and white. Highly detailed illustrations of stories about samurai, gods, dragons and geishas. The pages were a bit damaged by woodworm and probably lots of reading. But it seemed to me that it would be a pity if they were to be bought and stored in a bookcase not to be seen again and eaten further away by bookworm. Then I got the idea to use these images in a painting, although not sure if this would be possible because they looked so fragile. I placed a bid. And a new bid… and again!
I got the winning bid and with this in my hands I knew I had to make this painting a special one. I decided to make an ode to life itself by making a diptych about the basis of life: the love and relationship between a man and a woman. After setting up the sketch, both drawn from the side and facing each other, they were connected to each other. My idea was to decorate their bodies with the cut outs from the Japanese woodblock printed books, like some sort of tattoos. This was the hardest part, because I literally had to destroy an old cultural object. I felt like a barbarian when I cut the pages, but I kept telling myself that it was for a greater cause: the Japanese illustrations would be shown now all of the time.
I did my best to cut them out without damaging them and glued them on the canvas with wallpaper paste and when all dried up I knew this diptych was gonna be my showstopper! There is some sort of story you can unravel when taking a closer look at the woodblock prints. And when you take a step back you can feel the tension between him and her. Together with the golden halos and vibrant sprigs this diptych represents the holy connection between a man and woman. I named him ‘Jin’. I named her ‘Sei’. Together they form the name ‘Jinsei’, which means life in Japanese.”